A couple of months ago, there were lots of stories making fun of McCain’s lack of knowledge when it came to using technology.
However, as I noted in my contribution to the mix, I’m not as worried about his personal abilities as I am in the policies he would pursue as president.
One writer sees some major differences between the candidates in the area of telecommunications policy this year, saying that “John McCain is an AT&T guy; Barack Obama is a Google guy”.
In other words, McCain supports the positions of the huge telecom companies who view the internet as their personal highways and would love to extract higher tolls from content providers, especially those offering competing services.
As committee chair [Senate Commerce Committee], McCain also oversaw, and often encouraged, the incredible competition-stifling consolidation in the telecom industry. The country is now served almost entirely by three local phone, four cellular, and four cable companies. In his tenure as chairman, McCain supported nearly every merger. In 1999, he coauthored a bill that would strip the FCC of its ability to veto telecom mergers.
McCain’s mistakes derive partly from a lack of technological curiosity (he doesn’t use e-mail) and the presence of all sorts of Bell guys around him. His campaign manager, deputy campaign manager, Senate chief of staff, and chief political adviser have all worked as lobbyists for Verizon or AT&T.
But more blame lies with his philosophy. McCain espouses what he calls a deep belief in free markets and in keeping government off the backs of business. That’s all well and good, except for when a market–like telecommunications–requires intervention in order to create competition. Unrestricted freedom for the big guy often means death to the little guy.
The result is that the big telecoms sit on their profits while the US, especially in rural areas, fall farther behind the rest of the world in terms of widely-available, inexpensive broadband service.
With any luck, this is one more area of public policy that will change to reflect the needs of the public, as opposed to those of large campaign contributors, after January 20, 2009.